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HOW TO: Create the Perfect Marketing Plan

A Good Marketing Plan is the Roadmap to Success

No one dreams of failing when starting their business, but the fact is that more than half of all business owners call it quits by the end of their second year and a full 80% before the end of their fifth year.  While there are a number of reasons for these stats, by far the biggest reason these businesses fail is that they lack a solid marketing plan.

Too many small business owners believe in the “Field of Dreams” style of doing business – Build it and they will come.  Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.  Your success not only relies on a good product/service, but more importantly, good, consistent marketing.  A good product without marketing is far more likely to fail than a bad product with good marketing.

When first starting out, too many business owners are either intimidated by the marketing plan process, or simply fail to put one together in the first place.  Whether you’re just getting started or have recently come to the realization that your business needs a solid marketing plan in place to move forward, you’re in luck.  Simply follow the outline below and you’re sure to get many more customers, with far less time and money on your part.

The 8-Step Guide To A Powerful Marketing Plan

Step I.  The Executive Summary

Your executive summary is a two-minute overview of your marketing plan.  While this section should be short and to the point, don’t assume everyone who reads your plan knows what your business is about.  Include things like your business name, what it does, where it’s located and your target audience.

Talk about the market and how your business plans to fill a gap, the market threats and opportunities.  Lastly, talk about your sales objectives and how you plan on reaching them.

Step II.  Assess the Situation

Assessing the situation for your business will probably be the most difficult part of your plan to develop and the largest section of your marketing plan.  It will also require the most research and is probably the most frustrating section to the business owner.

When researching, break this section up into three distinct categories:

  • Your company
  • Your competition
  • Your customers

Assess Your Company

  • Define your business
  • Define your management strategy
  • Define your customer base
  • Define your financial situation
  • Define your strengths and weaknesses

Assess Your Competition

  • Define who they are
  • Define how they are different from you

Assess Your Customers

  • Identify their needs
  • Identify their level of satisfaction

In addition to expanding on your executive summary, be sure to include your mission statement and your overall vision.  Also, perform thorough research on your competition and stay abreast of the gaps in your marketplace so you can better fill the needs of your target market.

Step III.  Build a Potential Client Base

In this step, you will clarify your strategy of how you expect to grow and maintain a customer base that is large enough to build your business upon.  Some of the topics you should be sure to include are:

  • Identifying your competitive position
  • Identifying your niche
  • Describing your targeted customer base
  • Describing what you offer these customers
  • Identifying the information you’ll tell your customers about your products/services

Spend plenty of time identifying your position and niche, as these are the areas in which your business will either succeed or fail.  Next, decide whether you will target current customers or new ones and whether you will market new or current services.

Keep in mind that marketing new services to new customers comes at a higher risk than marketing current services to current customers.

Step IV. Set 6 and 12 Month Goals

One of the surest ways to succeed is to list specific, measurable goals.  Be sure to be as specific as possible and write down what you will do and by when.

  • Your goals should focus on the niche you described above
  • Your goals should be measurable
  • Your goals should aim for 6 month increments

Step V. Determine the Marketing Tools You’ll Use to Accomplish Your Goals

While the majority of your marketing plan is based on thorough research, this section of your plan will rely more on your creativity.  Think about where your customers are and the best ways for you to reach them, preferably at the lowest cost to your business.  There are literally hundreds of marketing tools you can use to find and get customers, so you’ll need to spend some time learning about some of these tools, and then:

Identify the tools you will use to reach:

  • New customers
  • Current customers
  • Past customers

In addition, you’ll need to identify the tools you will use to ensure a good fit for your:

  • Customers
  • Budget
  • Personality

Depending on your market, your customers will expect you to advertise and/or market to them in certain places.  While it’s a good idea to do things somewhat differently from your competitors, don’t try to be different just to be different.  Instead, be better, more efficient and more interesting.

Step VI. Identify Resources

Now that the bulk of your marketing plan is complete, it’s time to think about the resources you will need to successfully implement the ideas and goals you’ve come up with.  Resources include:

  • Costs to your business
  • The time required to implement each task
  • The person responsible for implementing each task

Do your homework!  Each of these resources on their own can make or break your business if you choose unwisely.  As with other areas of your business, performing due diligence will increase your chances of success.

Step VII. Develop a Marketing Calendar

This step may not require as much research as some of the other steps, but it’s extremely important to take some time and lay out your plan for at least an entire year.

It’s not sufficient merely to have a plan, you must act on it and the best way to make sure you do that is to create a calendar detailing the activities and strategies you will implement week by week and month by month.  You probably won’t see results immediately, but by sticking to your marketing calendar, you are sure to see positive results eventually.  Keep your calendar in front of you as much as possible and stick to it.

Step VIII.   Implement and Monitor Your Plan

Like any other plan, you not only need to implement the key points and strategies you’ve come up, but to also monitor your actions and the results they create.

Some of the things you’ll want to do are:

  • Identify how you will track results
  • Identify how you will know if you need to adjust or update your plans
  • Identify how you will reward yourself for successful completion of certain activities

Depending on the tools you choose to market your business, there are a number of ways you can go about tracking your results.  Diligently check your results and decide if your activities are paying off in some concrete way.  It’s not always about making money (though that’s typically the most important result), but you should see some positive results like more names on your mailing list, more phone calls to your business or an increase in word-of-mouth.

As long as you see some positive results, make sure to take some time to reward yourself and your team members for a job well done and build on each new success.

Summary

The more time and effort you put into creating a solid marketing plan, the more likely it is that your business will survive beyond the magic two year mark that claims so many other businesses.  Be thorough.  Be creative.  Be realistic.  Keep a firm eye on the competition.  And above all, have fun marketing your business because it is the most important reason for your ultimate success or failure.

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